The St. Thomas More Cougars put together a dominant performance in a 62-14 victory against the North Vermillion Patriots in a nondistrict matchup to close the regular season.
On Senior Night at Cougar Stadium, STM (8-2) showed why they will be a force to be reckoned with in the Division II playoffs and how difficult their offense will be to contain.
The Cougars showed their strength in the air and on the ground against the Patriots (5-5). STM ran 47 plays for 501 total yards, including 406 passing yards. The Cougar also converted on five of the seven third-down situations they faced.
“Real proud of the group," said STM coach Jim Hightower. "I think we had a good week of preparation. Again, I think our kids still want to get better, and they have that hunger to want to play good solid football. Real proud of the seniors and the job they’ve done leading this group. I think that was big in getting ready to play, and it’s on to the playoffs.”
The Cougars quickly jump out to a three-touchdown lead in the first quarter. That included touchdown passes of 54 and 39 yards from senior quarterback Caleb Holstein to junior wide receiver Jake Bech.
Going into halftime, the Cougars led 35-7, aided by 1-yard touchdown runs by Noah Frederick and Tobin Thevenot. Thevenot was also on the receiving end of 35-yard touchdown pass from Holstein in the second quarter.
It only got better for the Cougars in the third quarter. Bech scored for the third time on a 56-yard pass from Holstein, Frederick added another 1-yard touchdown run and Jake Chiasson returned a blocked kick for a score.
But the Cougars weren't done yet. Joshua Stevenson's 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter encapsulated the Cougars' domination.
“Pretty special group and it’s a big group," Hightower said of his senior class. "We got a lot of seniors on this team, and they have done a fine job of leading us all the way through. I am just really proud of all of them from top to bottom.”
Holstein completed 17 of his 23 passes for 397 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Bech had a historic night, breaking STM's single-season receiving yards record with 1,203 yards. Bech finished the game with six receptions for 229 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cougars will likely have a bye in the first round of the Division II playoffs.
“We played a tough schedule," Hightower said. "Our district has been really dog-eat-dog, and I think it gets you better. Our guys have some confidence from going through that stretch, and we’re just anxious to get started really. We are still excited about being together and playing football and hoping we can get two or three more weeks in.”